John Metcalfe is CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, based in Oakland. His coverage focuses on climate change and the science of cities.
The model Knuffingen Airport in Hamburg, part of the world's largest railway model, has 40 different planes that take off and land hundreds of times daily.
If you think the seats in United's economy section are tight, try squeezing into the cabin of a jet at Hamburg's Knuffingen Airport.
That would require being crumbled into fine powder, because Knuffingen is a scale model inspired by the city's actual airport. You might not immediately notice the difference from watching these videos. The creators of the airport, Gerrit and Frederik Braun, poured an unbelievable €3.5 million and 6 years of construction work into it, and footage of the finished product looks almost exactly like tilt-shift shots of a real plane hub.
Knuffingen is a fictional city in Miniatur Wunderland that exists next to tiny versions of Scandinavia, Austria and America's Old West. Miniature Wunderland is, for its part, a museum in Hamburg that happens to contain the world's largest model-train set. Visitors can geek out to 930 computer-operated trains chugging over 1,300 square meters of modellbahnanlage, aka railway-set paraphernalia. The airport set piece covers 150 square meters and holds 40 types of jets that actually take off and land as often as 360 times per day. When the Brauns cut the ribbon on it last year, it was such a huge event that the mayor of Hamburg himself felt obliged to attend.
This city of 10,000 inhabitants, idyllically situated between the Harz and the Alps, is one of the largest cities in Miniatur Wunderland. Knuffingen is known for its innovations and has a worldwide reputation for its automobile industry....
The police in Knuffingen is also well equipped. A radar trap regularly catches truck drivers who are putting the pedal to the metal. The fire department Knuffingen is working at full capacity.
The central computer system is afflicted by the work of an arsonist who sets fires on different houses in the city. We haven't been able to catch the arsonist yet, much to the annoyance of the fire department and the joy of our guests. So, the siren will be heard as a characteristic sound in Knuffingen for a long time to come.
Let's hope that arsonist doesn't find out how flammable jet fuel is. You can find more wowza photos here, and this a behind-the-scenes video of model makers putting the finishing touches on the airport for its opening day: